Skagen Jorn Hybrid Smartwatch–review

March 3, 2018 11:43 PM

Image via Google

This is the Jorn, Skagen‘s new 2017 addition to it’s connected range for men.  It is slightly updated; a bit thinner, with no sub-dial, some software tweaks and a new look.  The Jorn comes in two flavours- I bought the titanium grey version. It looks like a classic analogue watch but it isn’t!  It connects to your smartphone via bluetooth and the hands fly around the face to tell you different things while the customisable buttons allow you to trigger things on your phone and display info on your wrist.


One of the main selling points of this watch is the fact that it looks just like a classic analogue watch.  It’s not geeky or techy looking like most smartwatches.  Skagen is known for its classy and modern minimal designs, and this watch is consistent with their high standards.  I chose this version because I like that it’s very minimal and not too dressy- I can wear this with anything.


If this were no more than an analogue watch then it would probably be a little thinner (as a hybrid, this needs thickness to fit the internals), and you would expect a wider range of designs, but basically, this looks like a really nice analogue watch.  Other design aspects worth noting are the four coloured notification dots which fit with the colour scheme of the watch very well, and the glow in the dark strips on the hands which, though unnoticable in the day, light up at night so you can still tell the time.  I think the fact that the hands move round the screen to give you notifications and other info counts as a design feature because it’s very cool!  It is in many ways a novelty, but one that doesn’t wear off quickly.  Unlike smartwatches which badly hide their digital nature with crass ‘analogue’ faces on their LCD/AMOLED screens, the Jorn actually is an analogue watch, but it also has digital capabilities, which it hides perfectly.  There is something very satisfying about that.



The face glass is made of mineral crystal which is a fairly high end material for watch faces. It is meant to be one of the most shatter proof options, though not quite as scratch proof as sapphire.  I haven’t had any problems with scratches yet.  The body is titanium, which has a darker, greyer finish than stainless steel that I think is really nice.  It’s also hypoallergenic if that is important to you, and feels extra light.


Titanium is, I’ve read, not as scratch proof as stainless steel, and I’ve got a couple of scuffs on the bezel after wearing the watch for under a month. I’m still looking into how easy it is to repair scuffed titanium, but either way, they’re not very noticeable.  The strap is leather.  I don’t know much about leather but it seems nice.  Quick release pins mean you can replace it really easily.



The Jorn will notify you, like a smartwatch, when you get certain phone notifications, telling you which app (or contact) wants your attention, but not detailing the notification content (there is no screen) or allowing you to action the notification in any way.  This, I think, is enough.  When I used an Android Wear smartwatch, I found that actioning notifications on the watch by voice or with the tiny on-screen keyboard was very hit-and-miss, and I rarely received a notification on the watch that was useful and didn’t require an action.  So most of the time I would either see the notification on my watch and ignore it because I didn’t care, or I’d see the notification on my wrist and pull my phone out of my pocket to action it.  This meant that I was barely using the smartwatch notification functionality, except when I was on my phone anyway.


The Jorn avoids these issues by just telling you that you’ve got an email, message, call etc.  It doesn’t distract you with notification content that isn’t important, and it doesn’t just show you notifications that you’re going to see again moments later on your phone when you go to action them.  The notification system on the Jorn involves vibrations (which are subtle, but noticeable) and the hands flying to the configured dot.  This requires some memorisation (which dot means which notification type) but works decently.  As with my Android Wear watch, I find the call notification most useful, as this stops me from missing calls when my phone is on vibrate mode but not on my person.  The Jorn does an especially hard vibrate for calls, though strangely, the vibration is in three bursts rather than continuous.  Vibration types are not configurable, but are set for calls, texts and other notifications.


In total you can configure five different notification types which can include calls or texts from specific contacts (or all calls or all texts), and notifications from third party apps (eg. Facebook Messenger) but, unfortunately, not specific notification types from third party apps (eg. messages from specific Facebook contacts).  One thought I’ve had about the notification dots on the watch face is that, by being on the left side of the face, people who wear the watch on their left wrist will have to fully uncover the watch from any sleeves or other clothing to see which dot the hands are pointing to.  If they were on the right side of the face then you’d just have to peep under the garment.


Customisable buttons

There are three buttons on the left side of the watch.  These are round, unlike the oval ones on 2016 Skagen Connected watches.  They can do a range of different things depending on how you configure them: show the time in a second time zone, point to the day of the month using the numbers around the edge, replay the last notification shown, increase volume, decrease volume, check your progress towards an activity goal (using the 0-100 scale on the top left) and take a photo from the phone camera.  You can also set a single button to provide music controls (single press for play/pause, double press for next track, long press for previous track), set a button to ring the phone (very useful for finding it when lost nearby or getting out of awkward situations!), and log progress towards a goal (eg you’ve just drunk a glass of water and want to log progress towards your water goal).


This is the aspect of the Jorn which most frustrates me.  These features are really useful, and really cool!  They offer probably some of the most useful features of my Android Wear smartwatch in an quicker, easier to use, and ‘clicky-er’ format.  But with only three buttons, each which can only do one thing, the great potential here is inhibited.  When the music control function is set to a button it becomes the exception to this rule, and it is a great example of how much more functionality could exist.  It offers three functions under one button.  Compare this to the date function, which wastes a whole button just so you can see the date (this is especially annoying given that many analogue watches show the date with a date ticker).  I have set the top button to date, the middle to music controls and the bottom to ring phone, but I would like to be able to use a few other functions as well.  Although you can save button configurations/presets, you have to dig into the app to change these.  The whole point of these features is to stop you having to get out your phone, and if I’m having to go into the app to set that, for example, I’m now listening to music and I want music and volume controls on the watch, that is self defeating.


I don’t know why it is not possible to set separate short press and long press functionality for each button, for example short press for the date and long press for second time zone.  Obviously the music controls button would not be compatible with this option.  Additionally, some context awareness would be useful.  The watch could detect that I’m listening to music and reconfigure to offer me music and volume controls, for example. Very few people are going to want music and volume controls all the time as this takes up three buttons (you wouldn’t even be able to check the date).


Unlike hardware issues, these are the type of issues that could potentially that could be fixed in a software update.  But I’m not hopeful that Skagen will implement these sort of changes.  I get the impression that they are aiming for simplicity and don’t want to over complicate, and admittedly, for some users, my suggestions would be over complications.


Fitness tracking

I really don’t care about fitness tracking, but this watch does it.  Probably not as well as other options, and it doesn’t have a heart rate monitor, but the functionality is there if you want it.  Sleep tracking is also available.


Battery life

Give that the primary function of even the most sophisticated smartwatch is probably still telling the time, it used to really annoy me when my smartwatch ran out of battery because I had forgotten to charge it, leaving me with a useless blank screen on my wrist.  The Jorn doesn’t have this problem as it runs on a standard watch battery which Skagen claim lasts six months.   I haven’t fully tested this yet, but it’s worth noting that Skagen say that the more notifications you set/get, the quicker the battery will die.  Personally, I would rather charge the watch every six months than replace the battery, but then it is also nice to know that I could get a battery at any watch shop or supermarket and there isn’t yet another charger to lose or forget to bring on holiday. The battery is easy to replace at home.



The Skagen connected app works reasonably well.  Hopefully, you won’t have to use it after setup (if you like looking at fitness data I suggest you just hook it up to Google FIt or another compatible fitness app).  Some of the UX design is questionable but it doesn’t really matter.



I have had a few connectivity problems with the Jorn.  Very occasionally it has stopped receiving notifications. Slightly more often notifications work but the customisable buttons do not properly trigger the phone (to pause music, for example).  These issues are annoying, but not regular enough to be a big problem, and may be due to my phone (OnePlus 3T) or could be fixed in a software update.


This is a really interesting product targeted at particular niche of people who want that balance between style, technology and functionality.  It’s certainly not perfect, and there are some missed opportunities that Skagen may or may not address in a software update or future model, but the core functionality you’d expect is there, and presented with a lot of charm.  And even if you don’t like the hybrid features, or they become obsolete with time, this is, and always will be, a really nice watch.


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